Prime Minister Janez Janša at a working meeting with the Visegrad Group prime ministers
- Former Prime Minister Janez Janša (2020 - 2022)
Today, the prime ministers of the Visegrad Group (V4) were on a working visit to Slovenia as the country holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU. On this occasion, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš met with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša in Ljubljana. The main topics of the plenary session of the Visegrad Four with the Prime Minister of Slovenia were the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, the Conference on the Future of Europe, the situation in Western Balkans and other current European topics.
Slovenia has worked closely with the Visegrad Group on various issues and levels for a number of years. The V4 countries and Slovenia have a lot of common interests, due largely to the common EU membership, geographical proximity and sharing similar stages of economic development. On 1 July, Hungary took over the Visegrad Presidency.
The plenary session of prime ministers was followed by a press conference attended by the V4 prime ministers and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša.
Prime Minister Janša started out by saying that he was honoured to welcome all the Visegrad countries to Slovenia. He went on to say: "In the first few months of the epidemic last year, all the Visegrad countries came to Slovenia's aid, at a time when the EU had not yet managed to organise itself. Aid came in the form of personal protective equipment, in the form of assistance in transferring our citizens from other continents, rapid antigen tests, a visit of military medical teams, and even vaccines. We also received much more assistance to meet our then needs. In the most difficult times, we witnessed an incredible display of solidarity in Central Europe." Prime Minister Janša also thanked Poland and Hungary for helping Slovenia protect the Schengen border by providing its police officers at a time when this posed a considerable challenge.
“In the discussions we just finished that will continue over a working lunch, we looked at the priorities of this semester within the Council of the EU, i.e. recovery and resilience, the strategic autonomy of the European Union, the issue of a safe and credible EU, the European way of life, and also the topics that we want to address in the coming months in the context of the Conference on the Future of Europe, including the issue of enlargement of the European Union,” said the Prime Minister, adding that within these dossiers there are also some legislative challenges that we will have to address, from migrations to the expected European Commission’s proposal to cut CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030.
“The statement of the Prime Ministers of the Visegrad Group, which was adopted before our meeting, largely reflects our priorities, as well as the positions that Slovenia has on all these topical issues,” said Prime Minister Janša and thanked his counterparts for their support for the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency. “We look forward to visits from all four colleagues in the coming months, first as part of the Bled Strategic Forum, and again in October, when an extraordinary EU summit with Western Balkan countries and their Heads of State will be held to discuss the issue of enlargement,” said the Prime Minister.
“Slovenia has traditionally worked with the Visegrad Group many times since it has been active within the EU. We have often coordinated priorities during this time, and I am pleased that we are again doing so at a time when Slovenia has the additional responsibility of presiding over the Council of the EU, and when in general, we and the EU are facing many challenges which we need to find timely answers,” added the Prime Minister.
Asked what the expectations of the Visegrad Group are for the Slovenian Presidency in light of topics that may be more controversial across the East-West relationship, including migration and the rule of law, the Prime Minister said that he would first of all like to congratulate his colleagues on their exceptional economic growth forecasts and on their general post-pandemic recovery. "A few days ago, the European Commission published revised and optimistic forecasts for the recovery of the European economy, and all of us standing here come from countries with above-average forecasts, which is extremely good news. The EU will be strong when its Member States are strong, economically and overall. The EU cannot be strong if its Member States are weak, and right now one of the key factors in economic power is a speedy recovery. The forecasts came before any of the recovery and resilience plans were approved," said the Prime Minister.
"As for the differences between East and West, there are 27 EU Member States and recently, the EU has been reduced for the first time, which is why there was all the more talk about the issue of enlargement, because, according to the Slovenian view, EU enlargement is a strategic response to the many strategic challenges in our neighbourhood. At the inception of the EU, the founding fathers aimed to achieve a Europe that is free, whole and at peace with itself and its neighbourhood. It is clear that this goal could not be achieved overnight. First, nations living on the free side of the Iron Curtain came together within the EU. Those of us who are standing here belong to the nations and countries that lived on the East of that Iron Curtain, the side that was not free, and that came to join the Union later," said the Prime Minister, adding that this is clearly one of the reasons for such differences.
"The generation to which I belong knows how real life and the suffering actually felt on the side of the Iron Curtain that was deprived of freedom. Most of our colleagues in the West who we talk to were born into prosperity and sometimes it takes quite some time to explain to them how some things worked and that the freedom and democracy we enjoy today are not to be taken for granted, that they are to be fought for, that you are not necessarily born into freedom and democracy with parents who provide you with everything", said Prime Minister Janez Janša.
In response to the Hungarian Prime Minister’s remarks and the debate in the European Parliament, which was not the first, Prime Minister Janša pointed out that many documents existed in the European Union on which a consensus had been reached and which respond to the challenges we have talked about but which we keep forgetting. In this context he mentioned Article 14 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which addresses the freedom to found educational establishments with due respect for democratic principles and the right of parents to ensure the education and teaching of their children in conformity with their religious, philosophical and pedagogical convictions. "Both rights are to be respected in accordance with the national laws that govern them", said the Prime Minister, adding that he was reading out this because in the debates in which he himself participated only one aspect of democracy was cited. "If we read the whole Charter closely we see what the national and the European competences are", said Prime Minister Janša. He went on to say that Slovenians had left a country where these things had started to be interfered with, adding that he does not want this mistake to be repeated in the European Union. "Let us stick to the documents we have signed and to the agreed frameworks of values. I participated in person in the preparation of the Lisbon Treaty, in the negotiations on its entry into force, and I am a signatory to the Lisbon Treaty and during our first EU Council Presidency the ratification of this Treaty was one of our priorities, so I know what I am talking about", added the Prime Minister, concluding that it sometimes annoys him when these matters are discussed only general terms with knowledge that is based on newspaper headlines alone.